Judge Blasts Oakland for Mishandling Police Discipline

Capt. Ersie Joyner III

Capt. Ersie Joyner III

Federal Judge Thelton Henderson issued a court order this week criticizing the City of Oakland for failing to consult the court-appointed federal overseer when the City Administrator reduced the punishment for a police captain accused of striking a suspect during an arrest.

After the police chief and the federal compliance director had agreed upon a level of discipline, “The City Administrator subsequently imposed a different level of discipline without consulting the compliance director … (which) violated the orders of this court,” Henderson wrote in the order dated July 22.

Henderson said he had issued the order as a “stern reminder” to follow the terms of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA). “The court hopes this order will serve its intended prophylactic effect and that this situation will not recur,” he wrote.

“If the defendants fail to heed the court’s warning, they should expect a show cause order for future violations, which would also undermine any confidence in the sustainability of the reforms that have been and continue to be achieved,” according to Henderson.

Though Henderson did not mention details of the police discipline case, he was referring to the handling of the discipline of Capt. Ersie Joyner III for striking a suspect during an arrest in March 2013, according to reports.

In that case, Joyner was accused of inappropriate use of force when he struck Dantjuan McElroy twice in the face with his hand during the suspect’s arrest, the reports said. McElroy was charged with possessing an automatic weapon.

The department at first wanted to demote Joyner to lieutenant, according to reports. However, officials reduced the punishment to a 10-day suspension after outside experts wrote reports that cleared the officer of wrongdoing, the reports said.

When the case went to then City Administrator Fred Blackwell, he further reduced the punishment to counseling after he heard that the suspension would be reversed on appeal, without consulting the federal compliance director, the reports said.

Over the years, Capt. Joyner, a longtime high-ranking OPD officer, has been the subject of a number of internal police investigations and civil lawsuits.

City Rights Attorney John Burris is currently suing the city, Joyner and another officer for shooting and killing two men in 2011. Prosecutors have already cleared police of any wrongdoing in that case.

He was also under investigation for misconduct for approving the use of beanbag projectiles against Occupy Oakland protesters in November 2011.

In addition, Joyner faced an internal probe on how he handled the investigation into the death of Chauncey Bailey in 2007. In early 2009, Sgt. Derwin Longmire and Joyner, who was Longmire’s immediate supervisor in the Bailey case, were reassigned from the homicide detail to patrol duties in the wake of that investigation, which involved internal affairs detectives and investigators from the California Department of Justice.

 

Howard Jordan, then assistant police chief, told the Oakland Tribune at the time that neither move had anything to do with the Bailey case or subsequent investigations.

 

One of the City of Oakland’s highest paid employees, Joyner had a total compensation in 2011 of $252,286. In March 2014, he received a President’s Award for his work with Ceasefire and gang case management at a Neighborhood Champions Award ceremony.

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